Colombia produces and exports over 14 million bags of high-quality coffee every year, and it's regarded as some of the best in the world.
However, I only fully appreciated Colombia's coffee culture once I visited a few years ago.
In Colombia, how, when, where, and what coffee they drink is very different, and there's a lot to learn if you're visiting.
In this guide, I’ll show you what to order in Colombia and tell you exactly how to do it so you can get your caffeine fix without any embarrassment.
How To Order Your First Coffee In Colombia (Don’t Be Shy!)
Coffee in Colombia is very different from other parts of the world. There are Colombian coffee shops, but they are few and far between, and they can be expensive.
Instead, Colombian coffee is typically sold on carts found on most streets.
These ‘Tinto carts’ usually only have a few options, but you still need to know how to order coffee from them.
Here are three drinks you need to try to truly delve into Colombiano coffee culture:
The Classic Tinto Coffee
Don't let the name fool you; Tinto is not red wine. It’s the classic coffee in Colombia. Tinto is a black coffee that usually comes very sweet (though not always).
The name ‘tinto’ means ink and comes from the fact that it's dark and thick.
Tinto may seem like something you would find in specialty coffee shops, but it’s a basic black coffee in Colombia.
How do you order it? Simply ask for "Un Tinto por favor" or say "¿me regala un tinto?" (Can I have a black coffee?)
A Tinto will usually come in one size (which can vary by region), so you don't need to ask for a large, small, tall, or grande version.
There is no such thing as a Tinto café con leche because it never comes with milk.
Tinto in Colombia is about the same size as an espresso and served in a small cup. It also comes with a separate glass of water.
Tinto coffee is usually sweetened with sugar or aguapanela (sugarcane juice), and some brewers will even add cinnamon or spices.
If you enjoy a latte or white coffee, you will enjoy a perico/pintado. Perico is a tinto (black coffee) with half the coffee replaced by warm milk (or steamed milk in some coffee shops).
Perico is basically the Colombian version of café con leche or latte. It's not as popular as a Tinto, but you can still order this milky coffee in any coffee shop or at the stand.
How do you order a milk coffee? Just ask for "Un Perico por favor" or say "Me puede dar un café?" (Could you give me a coffee with milk?)
You can also play around with the coffee-to-milk ratio.
If you want a lot of milk with just a little coffee, ask for a perico claro, and if you want a lot of coffee with just a little milk, ask for a perico oscuro.
Need a dairy-free option? Colombian café bars will have some milk varieties. Just ask your barista for one of the following:
Like Tinto, Perico comes in tiny cups, so it's a lot shorter than your standard latte.
If you want a caffeine fix and a winter warmer in one, you need an El Carajillo.
This drink is essentially a tinto with rum or aguardiente (a spirit derived from cane sugar with the taste of anise).
It’s similar to an Irish coffee and perfect for those who like to drink coffee with alcohol.
The name El Carajillo comes from the Spanish word coraje, meaning courage. This dates back to the invention of the drink during the war when it was given to soldiers as liquid courage.
How do you order an alcoholic coffee drink? Just ask for “El Carajillo por favor” or “Quiero un Carajillo” (I want an alcoholic coffee)
Not every coffee shop, stall, or market will serve this delicious cup of alcoholic coffee, but most will. It’s also a popular iced coffee drink, and on a hot day, you can ask for a Carajillo con hielo.
What Not To Do When Ordering Coffee at a Colombian Café
Before you ask: ‘How do you order coffee in Spanish?’ you should consider the etiquette. Here are some rules that you should follow to avoid embarrassment:
What’s Typically On The Menu at a Colombian Café?
Colombia may not have as many coffee shops, but coffee is part of their cultural experience and lifestyle.
You can get a cup of coffee from the stalls on street corners, but in some areas, there will be coffee shops where you can order coffee in different styles.
Here’s what you should expect to see on the menu in an actual Colombian coffee shop:
Traditional Colombian Coffee
Western coffee culture is based around an espresso shot, whereas Colombian coffee lovers enjoy drinks based on Tinto coffee.
This good coffee is made from high-quality local coffee beans grown at high altitudes. It's the base for many local drinks:
Colombian coffee culture doesn't center around espresso, but Colombian coffee beans make some of the best espresso coffee in the world.
Here are the espresso drinks you'll see on the menu:
Related Questions About Ordering Coffee In Colombia
What is a Colombian coffee shot called?
In Colombia, a small mug of black coffee is called a Tinto. However, you can still order an espresso shot in some coffee shops.
What is a Colombian Carajillo?
A Carajillo is a hot coffee Tinto made with brandy, rum, or aguardiente. This alcoholic coffee was originally Spanish but is now commonly drunk in Colombia and South America.
What is a Colombian latte?
A Colombian latte is a Cafe Perico, though some coffee shops will still offer you a classic espresso-based latte.
Summary: Order Your First Colombian Tinto!
Knowing how to order coffee in Colombia is more complex than learning the Spanish words.
You need to understand the coffee culture, where and what to buy, and how to immerse yourself in the local culture during your trip.
Cafe Colombiano centers around their signature coffee drink - the Tinto.
I recommend you start there and then try the rest of the high-quality traditional Colombian coffees to see which you enjoy the most.